While we were working at Holker Farm, were were lucky enough for Martin to give us a day to go and make cheese with Graham Kirkham. We didn't have to be asked twice!
Kirkham's Lancashire is the last remaining Lancashire cheese to be made the traditional way - using unpasteurised milk and by mixing curds from three days. It has a moist, creamy, delicate, slightly crumbly but still smooth texture. When young, it has a slightly lemony, creamy, balanced flavour with an acid tang at the end. As it ages past 3 months the savoury flavours develop more strongly, but it still retains it's characteristic texture and creamy tangy flavours. Kirkham's is also the only Lancashire with a buttered rind (instead of wax) - and because this coating is less airtight it allows the tangy, buttery savoury flavours to develop more. Interestingly, this was also apparent when we tasted a cheese with Graham that had been cut in half two weeks earlier - the sample taken from under the cut surface had a more complex (yet still balanced) flavour than a plug taken from an uncut cheese from the same batch.
The Kirkhams have their own herd of holstein-friesians, which are milked in a large shed next to the cheese factory. This allows Graham to know the quality of the milk and discuss any issues with his father (who milks the cows) and thus make any adjustments on a day to day basis.
We spent a full day with Graham and followed the whole process from the vat filling with milk, setting, cutting, stirring, dwelling, draining, curd stacking, pressing, curd cutting, curd breaking, milling, hoop filling and pressing again. Oh, and we also helped with removing the cloths from the previous day's cheese, trimming, re-clothing, re-pressing, and buttering the rinds of the previous week's cheese. Yes - to be a cheese maker you have to be organised and fit.
We were also fed like kings. Mrs Kirkham (Graham's mum Ruth, who started the business over 30 years ago and who was taught by her own mother) makes an amazing breakfast - complete with a large dish of Lancashire cheese melted on the stove top - which we spooned over our sausages, bacon and bread. What a treat.
For more information on Kirkham's Lancashire, see the following sites:
|Sandi helping trim and re-cloth the previous day's cheese.|
|Previous week's cheese waiting to be buttered.|
|Buttering the rind!|
|Melted Lancashire cheese as a breakfast condiment. Nom nom.|